A scene that makes me sad or angry — when I’ve already told you the Saddest Moment and What I Wish Didn’t Happen. And yet in the latter of those posts, I didn’t go into much detail about the E2 Atrocities, so allow me to delve! There’s only one moment in Star Wars that made me cry. However, there’s a couple that infuriate me every time I think of them . . .
These scenes are all prequel fight scenes, and most specifically those featuring Obi-Wan Kenobi. This was a problem that didn’t exist in the OT; Lucas only had two people — a good guy and a bad guy — who could use a lightsaber at all, so the fights were very straightforward. In fact, given that one duelist was old, the other had his limbs roasted off in lava, and the third was an untrained kid, these fights aren’t the eye candy they could be.
But then the prequels! For the first time, we get to see Jedi in their prime. But here’s the problem — Jedi don’t go anywhere alone. There’s always two of them. Now, a duel with three combatants is even more awesome than one with two, so that’s not hard. But what Lucas becomes utterly incompetent about is when he wants to “showcase” two of them at a time — which requires knocking the odd wheel out. And every single time, it’s Obi-Wan getting taken out like an absolute chump.
In Episode I, that’s all right. Obi-Wan’s a student. He and Maul are both in their physical prime, but they’re still apprentices, and it’s reasonable enough that the hotter (in more ways than one) fighter gets pushed out of the battle.
However, when this happens in Episode II, it’s flat out disgusting. Lucas wanted two things: a confrontation over blades between Anakin and Dooku, and a chance to use newfound technology to make the “wars not make one great” muppet a warrior. So once again, Obi-Wan gets kicked out of the fight. Like a puppet with its strings cut, he is completely flattened by two minor burns and is reduced to lying on the ground helplessly throwing his saber to Anakin. Anakin, by the way, who has never been an object of fantastic swordsmanship in the canon, only a brilliant pilot. Obi-Wan is far too good a Jedi to be taken in by Dooku’s mad baiting: “You disappoint me! I thought you would be better!” But Lucas needed Obi-Wan to move over. He is supposed to be the master duelist but he spends more time on his back in Episode II than Ewan McGregor’s other movies combined (there’s a joke about his infamous sex scenes in there…).
And then the Yoda fight. What can I say? It’s sick. If I accidentally see any of it, it infuriates me to the point of nausea. It is idiotic and pointless. It’s out of character, looks foolish, and makes no sense in the arc of the story. And Obi-Wan suddenly can’t even use the Force to keep a pillar from landing on them — Yoda has to “interrupt” his fighting to do so — which makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. I always fast-forward this scene. When E2 was in theaters, I used to get up and stand in the lobby while it was going on. If it ever comes out in 3D (SCREW YOU GEORGE) I’ll do the same. It’s not hyperbole to call it disgusting; it fills me with overwhelming disgust.
High hopes for Episode III notwithstanding, the first thing Lucas does is have his Jedi General, this ultimate warrior do is get Force-choked, knocked down some stairs, and unrealistically squished under a fallen balcony. Seriously, the shot clearly shows him getting a broken femur, the way his leg collapses under that thing. And all this so Anakin and Dooku can exchange a few threatening words, and then have no one around to stop Anakin from killing him. There were so many other ways to handle this. Like having Obi-Wan send Anakin in after the chancellor alone while he goes to help another Jedi, perhaps?
Yes, Obi-Wan gets a brilliant fight with Grevious, and I’ll talk about that in upcoming weeks, but even skipping the slightly disturbing fact that Obi-Wan gets kicked over a ledge there too — ledges are obviously his kryptonite — that fight is totally incongruous with his fighting seen up to that point.
Lucas wanted a brilliant duelist . . . but the brilliancy of his dueling was getting in the way of cheap story points the man was determined to crowbar in. All of this leads to the inevitable conclusion that, had the Hutt with the Death Star-sized ego been willing to let the PT be as collaborative an effort as the OT was, these later movies might have been just as awesome. Instead, however much I love these movies, however high their highs and scintillating their special effects, they remain the stiff efforts of a movie maker well past his prime and motivated by money more than the story he used to want to tell.
I have a fantasy where, in another parallel universe, Lucas didn’t try to make the PT into a one-man show. In this fantasy, they are collaborative as the originals were. As writing prep, Lucas sat down and watched the OT back to back and wrote down every potential inter-reference. Gore Verbinski directed Episode I to critical acclaim, Baz Luhrman brought Episode II to its full potential, and Christopher Nolan made Episode III gleam darkly. The special effects are eye-popping, but not expected to carry the entire show because the actors themselves — with appropriate feedback and directorial support — do what actors do best. And in those fights, those amazing, breathtaking fights, Obi-Wan doesn’t get taken out like a chump within 34 seconds every time just because Lucas wants someone to say a dumb line.